I have four children: a twelve-year-old girl, a ten-year-old boy, and a set of identical twins that are five years old. The twins both have cerebral palsy and use wheelchairs for mobility. All my kids are great, but I worry about my two children who do not have disabilities. My daughter seems to be a “little mother” to the twins, while my son doesn’t really want to be seen in public with them. What can you suggest?
Your older children are displaying just two of the many and varied feelings that are expressed by the siblings of children with disabilities. Guilt, embarrassment, protectiveness, worry, teasing/bullying, and limited parental attention are frequently the shared experiences of siblings of individuals with disabilities.
Parents can help all of their children cope better with
their family experience by encouraging communication,
recognizing the value of every member of the family, and
remembering to save some quality time for each of the
children every day.
In addition, it is often helpful for siblings to have an opportunity to be around other siblings of children with disabilities in organized group activities. These sibling groups, often called Sibling Workshops (or SibShops), encourage the expression of feelings, enable discussion about those feelings, and generally assist the sibling to understand that they are not alone in their experience. Sibling Workshop opportunities are offered in some Missouri communities. You can locate a group in your community at http://www.siblingsupport.org/sibshops/find-a-sibshop or you can call your local Regional Center for Developmental Disabilities. To find your local Regional Center, call the Department of Mental Health, Division of MRDD at 800-207-9329 or go to http://www.dmh.missouri.gov/mrdd/mrddindex.htm. In addition, you can contact the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Resource Center to inquire about such activities at 800-444-0821 or at http://www.moddrc.org/.
Michelle Reynolds, Director of the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Resource Center, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Last update: Wednesday, April 14, 2010